Programming is a big part of Minicon. It includes panel discussions, round tables, author readings, and special presentations.
Friday: 4pm-9:30pm, including opening ceremonies at 7pm
Sunday: 10am-3:30pm; closing ceremonies are at 4pm
Here is the list of scheduled panels, subject to only minor changes between now and Minicon.
Ask a Scientist
This panel is always so popular we just have to do it again.
Astronomy with Children
This class is for parents or teachers looking for easy, cheap astronomy projects to do with children. Topics will include how to create a solar analemma on the ground in a sunny yard or on a ceiling in a sunny room; how to use the wonderful planisphere; and how to find a person's real sun sign; plus various types of telescopes, where to buy telescopes, and where to go for a free astronomy experience. I will also give my take on how to get into amateur astronomy (go to a free star party, join a club, before spending money!) Children accompanied by an adult are welcome.
Current Trends in Science
The life of a scientist isn't filled by doing experiments - just as much time, if not more, is spent writing grant proposals to get funding to do those experiments. Part of the trick to getting the money is knowing what buttons to push, what keywords to include. What topics are hot in science right now? Where is the money going? What new avenues of scientific exploration could (or should) be the next big thing?
Many depictions of Earth's first contact with alien races rely on the idea that this first message will be transmitted via radio waves and will consist of some easily identifiable mathematical idea, usually prime numbers. But are there other ways that far-off civilizations might choose to communicate to the universe? Are we limited to the electromagnetic spectrum? Are there other messages that might be universally understood?
Seems like one long-term science fiction meme is intelligent jellyfish-like creatures living in the atmosphere of a Jovian planet. How plausible are such creatures, and why are they such a fixture of xenology?
SETI Fact vs. Fiction
How does the real-world endeavor of SETI compare with how it is portrayed in speculative fiction? Many portrayals of SETI show us a highly dedicated (and maybe slightly obsessed) scientist that the public tends to write off as a little nuts. What is it like to really work for SETI? Do the SF writers get it right? Does the public perception of SETI really match what they do?
Secret Underground Physics Labs
What's going on in the old Tower Soudan mine (and why does it look so much like a Half-Life game)? What's this DUSEL thing anyway? What else have scientists hidden under the earth, and what are they doing with it?
Science in the Public Eye
Scientists have held a strange iconic place in the popular imagination ever since Mary Shelley introduced us to the Frankenstein Trope in the early 19th century. Alternatively, scientists in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries were often presented as the ultimate hope of humankind. More recently, the public consciousness has swung back to a demonization of science, with scientists often presented as (at best) amoral and (at worst) agents of the devil. With the Obama presidency will we see a swing back in the other direction?
How to Build Your Own Spaceship
The spaceship, as ubiquitous to the space opera as the horse is to the western, reliable as the furniture, yet always good for a plot complication. How many of have dreamed of owning our very own spacecraft? This presentation will discuss, from the point of view of a hypothetical "do it yourselfer", the essential subsystems that every spacecraft needs to have. You might not walk away ready to "bend metal", but you'll be in a much better position to craft or understand this essential element of science fiction
Art, the Arts, and Craft
Popup Books and Paper Engineering
Come and see some resplendent examples of the popup book art form, and learn what goes into the construction of these little masterpieces. We may also throw in a little paper craft fun for everybody - learn a little origami, cut out a snowflake, or make a folded-paper fortune telling machine customized for Minicon.
Creating Web Pages that Don't Suck
Whether you're a writer, an artist or a fan, chances are you're going to find yourself creating a web page sooner or later. What common mistakes should you be sure to avoid? How can you improve your website without getting too complicated? It's all about art and design, with a dash of marketing thrown in!
Social Issues, Internet, Fandom
Etiquette for Social Networking
Regardless of platform, awkwardness abounds in online social networks. What situations have we encountered? What methods work in avoiding or dealing with these situations?
The Legend of Forry Ackerman
In memoriam for Forrest J. Ackerman, one of the founders of science fiction fandom.
F/SF Literature and Skiffy concepts
The Works of Karl Schroeder
Come and talk with the Author GOH about his work! Sponsored by Second Foundation, an SF-book discussion group. Discussion sponsored by Second Foundation, a Twin Cities book-discussion group that has met regularly since 1983.
Steampunk: the Romance of Science
What is Steampunk? Attitude or merely fashion statement? Or is there something about the buoyant spirit of the late 19th century that speaks to our feelings about technology today? Who else is defining the genre? Check out this incredible video: Steampunk meets Maker Movement.
Which singularity is it?
SF has dealt more and more with the Singularity, Vernor Vinge's concept of the point beyond which we cannot predict, but which singularity is it? The post-scarcity singularity, when no one has less than they need? The post-scarcity singularity where everyone gets everything they want (an important difference)? Or the one where artificial intelligence is cheap and frequent? Or the one where we all upload ourselves and our intelligences are no longer limited by flesh and blood. Transhumanism is a kind of singularity -- humanity evolving to the next stage, whatever that is -- as are Christian "left behind" narratives. Which singularities seem likely, which ones do we actually hope for, and what does that say about us?
Humor With An Edge: Mixing The Silly With the Profound
What is it about the writings of humorists (like Terry Pratchett) that allows them to work on controversial issues that other writers won't touch? Does humor give more license for subversion? What about depth? How does humor allow writers to strike deep emotional chords with their readers?
Breaking into Publishing in the 21st Century
An update of the perennially popular "Publishing 101" topic. What do you as a new writer need to know to get your big break? How is the process changing with the advent of printing on demand, audio books, and the paperback publishing industry in a state of freefall? Last year's advice on how to break into the business may already be obsolete.
Lady Poetesses from Hell
Ruth Berman, Jane Yolen, Elise Matthesen, Cassandra O'Malley, John C. Rezmerski, Eleanor Arnason The Lady Poetesses from Hell write about: Change, Futures, Pasts, Life, Love, Sex, Death, Violence, Manners -- all those volcanic urges. Their joint collection, "Lady Poetesses from Hell," will be published later this year
Vampires and Zombies and Werewolves, Oh, My!
The long standing popularity of these three fictional races argues that the stories we tell about them are more than just horror stories to scare children. Is there a cultural reason for this popularity? Can we mine any deep psychological meaning from our interest in these sorts? If vampires are a metaphor for forbidden sexuality (aren't they?), then lets see what we can make of zombies and werewolves.
"Careful the Wish You Make . . ."
The line is from Sondheim's Into the Woods, and is followed by the assertion that "wishes come true, not free." From wishing upon a star to three wishes, we will discuss the techniques, rewards and perils of having one's wishes granted. What would you wish for?
Adventures For Young Women
Even young women get to kick a lot more butt these days than they used to, but adventure stories for girls are still different from those for boys. We'll discuss both female and male young adventurers, with the goal of discovering directions yet to be taken. Feminism may come up.
The Year in SF/F: What Should I Read Next
The usual discussion of the best books and stories of the year. It never gets old!
Wikis as Literature
There's a long history of wonderful worlds presented in a reference or non-fiction format -- pure setting, no plot. One logical extension of this is for authors to create beautiful multimedia wikis (perhaps by a single author, perhaps by collaborative effort) that people can explore, and maybe even expand, without the encumbrance of a plot or main characters -- would people pay for this? What examples already exist?
Writing and publishing
Social Contract: What Negative Emotions is it Okay to Evoke in Your Readers?
How much of a social contract do writers have with their readers? What about making past memories come back painfully?
How To Not Get Depressed When You Work Alone
There's something about the writer's life. For some reason, people are actually jealous. But working alone at home on your own schedule has its own special challenges.
Media and comics
The Many Faces of Batman
Did Frank Miller go too far when he turned a beloved comics icon into a borderline psycho, or was it a return to Batman's 1939 essence? Was there really any point in Heath Ledger redoing The Joker after Jack Nicholson defined the character in the 1989 movie? Did its sequels channel too much camp from 1966? Does the latest cinematic take on the Dark Knight pull its punches, or correct the balance?
Pushing Daisies: what comes next?
While we don't know how the story works out, and won't until the three finished episodes are aired and the graphic novel wraps up the story (if these things ever happen), we can certainly speculate. Come prepared to discuss Ned's last name, the fate of Lil Gumshoe, the agelessness of Digby, and all those glorious colors.
What's New in Old Comics
Comics publishers have had to look beyond publishing periodicals to maintain their bottom line & have dug into the past to reprint classic material in collected volumes. From Marvel's Masterworks, Omnibus & Essential lines, DC's Showcase, Archive & Absolute lines to Dark Horse's reprinting of Gold Key classics (Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar, MARS Patrol, Tarzan, et al) and the Warren horror line, find out what's available at a fraction of the cost of the original back issues. Also: Titan Books' 007 newspaper strip collections, Gladstone's EC collections & various Irwin Allen & Gerry Anderson properties, 1960s Star Trek, Conan and more.
The Convenient Comic Book
Now that publishers are regularly collecting multi-issue story arcs into Trade Paperback & Hardcover editions, it is easier than ever to enjoy comics, without spending time looking for individual issues (& discovering you missed a chapter/issue) or trying to remember what happened last month. If you love comics, but gave up on the frustrating weekly pursuit of "floppies" (comic magazines) and just want to read a good stand-alone story of your favorite heroes with a minimum of confusion, find out which TPBs allow you to do just that.
Long Live Number 6!
From the wrap of production for The Prisoner until his until his recent death, Patrick McGoohan said little about his most influential work. Do Ice Station Zebra and the Columbo episode "Identity Crisis" tie in to The Prisoner? Was Number 6 actually Danger Man/Secret Agent John Drake? If so, some episodes of the earlier series reveal clues to the question, "Why did he resign?". Why would McGoohan never tie Number 6 to Drake? The answers may surprise you! Plus, news on the 2009 AMC/ITV mini-series with Jim Caveizel as Number 6 and Ian McKellan as Number 2, adaptations & homages of The Prisoner in books, comics and a place you never expected!
Who Watched The Watchmen?
Obstacles beset Watchmen from the start. When DC acquired Charlton Comics' superheroes & had other plans, Alan Moore's idea to grandly reinvent them as the Watchmen had to be reinvented itself, with new, albeit similar characters. Once filmed, "the graphic novel that could not be filmed" for almost 20 years, saw lawsuits over the movie rights threatening to prevent its release. With no on-going characters, realizing Watchmen on film had one chance only. The final hurdle: Did they get it right?
The Worlds of Blade Runner
Released the same week as E.T., initially critically and financially trounced, Blade Runner became a cinematic phoenix. While last year's DVD release of The Final Cut closes the book on the original film, we'll enlighten you to films and TV shows similar in theme and look to help relieve your withdrawal.
Dungeons and Dragons for Girls and Boys
Hosted by Richard Tatge and Michael Kauper
Ages 6 to 17, no experience necessary, must be able to read some. We will provide characters and materials. All new, exiting adventure, featuring a rare appearance by one of the grand masters of role playing games!! Not to be missed!
NOTE: All players must be enrolled in game by parent or responsible adult. No exceptions. We require contact information. Bring snacks, invite friends and family to watch.
The Secret RPG Gamer
A lot of people are into RPGs but don't admit it, or at least aren't forward about it. Why? What's to be done, if anything?
Info-dumping in RPGs
In RPGs, there's a great deal of exposition to be done. GMs need to explain setting information, and as a player, it can be frustrating when the GM tells you vital information after you needed it. ("What do you mean there's a lever on the wall? Why have we been trying to bust down this door for the past half-hour?") But exposition can become long-winded and tiresome. How do GMs and players strike a balance?
Not exactly panels
I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours
Hey, let's all get together and compare our new mini-laptops, smart phones and whatever other electronic gadgetry we got for Christmas. We can set up our own wireless network right there in the programming room! Does anybody still have one of those cute little Roombas? We could run them through a maze or obstacle course.